AN INTERVIEW WITH ADDICTED TO PAIN
By David Iozzia
On September 14, 2010, I took a short train ride from central New Jersey to midtown Manhattan. My destination was the office of Megaforce Records. I was meeting up with a new band out of Albany, New York, named Addicted to Pain. On the day of the release of their self-titled EP, I chatted with all three members of the band: guitarist/vocalist Leo Curley, bass guitarist Bob Horvath, and drummer Greg Nash.
Dave: Thanks for the interview guys and best of luck with the release of your EP. Leo, how did you get started as a musician?
Leo: I've been playing guitar since I was 12 and playing in bands since I was 16 or 17. Things didn't really pick up until I was in my 20s, when I played in a lot of hardcore bands in upstate New York. After an audition, I played for two years in Biohazard, between 2000 and 2002. That's where I got immersed in touring, saw the world, and saw how the music thing really works.
Dave: Who are your biggest influences as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter?
Leo: Randy Rhoads! When I was 12 years old and listening to the two records he did with Ozzy Osbourne, he made me want to play. Nobody could touch what he did. Picking a singer is tough. I kind of got forced into singing. I went to a music college, and we did "Carmina Burana" in the choir. That taught me how to sing, how to not blow your voice out, and how to breathe. It taught me how to pace myself also. That's where I learned the meat and potatoes. The singers I really like are the guys whom you can hear what they're saying. Guys like Neil Fallon from Clutch. He's not super melodic or anything like that. But you can hear what he's saying and feel what he's saying. That's how I put my vocals together. It's more of a feeling than a sound. Picking a songwriter is tough also. I grew up on Sunday hardcore matinees. Bands like Ludichrist and Nuclear Assault brought that extra metal element into it. I like the feel of hardcore and where it comes from, but when you add a little more talented musicianship, that type of band crossed over from hardcore to metal. That type of band influenced me in my songwriting.
Dave: How about you Bob?
Bob: This will sound corny, but I used to like dance music when I was a kid. I loved the sound of the bass, and my Mom bought me a bass guitar for Christmas. I started playing and learning stuff from Z.Z. Top. When I heard Motley Crue's "Shout at the Devil" and Slayer's "Hell Awaits," things changed. I always wanted to be right where we are today. My biggest influences are Metallica's Cliff Burton and Justin Chancellor from Tool.
Dave: Your turn Greg.
Greg: I had three older brothers who grew up in the 70s. They force-fed me Aerosmith, KISS, Led Zeppelin,, and all of the great rock bands from that era. I took empty driveway sealer buckets from my basement and set them up like drums. My brother bought me a pair of sticks. He made me cassette tapes of all of the Aerosmith albums, and I sat in that basement and learned every single song. Eventually, my parents bought me pieces for a drum kit. That's all I did. I'd run from the school bus to the basement and play until I saw the basement light flickering. That was my Mom's way of telling me when to stop. My parents supported me completely. They were big into Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow. My house was always filled with different types of music.
Dave: Who is your biggest influence as a drummer?
Greg: It would be a Frankenstein. I couldn't name one. It would have parts of John Bonham, Carl Palmer, Buddy Rich, and modern guys like Matt Chamberlain. In the late 80s and 90s, I got into metal and thrash. The drummers of Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax had a great influence on me, especially Slayer's Dave Lombardo.
Dave: Leo, talk about the formation of Addicted to Pain.
Leo: Bob, our bass player, and I have been doing a three-piece thing on and off for the past 10 years. Three years ago, we met Greg. He was the drummer who kind of completed it. We worked with a lot of drummers in the past, but in a three-piece, everybody needs to hold his own weight. Finding the right drummer who could fill up a lot of space was a big challenge. Once we found Greg, it's been a great musical experience ever since.
Greg: I didn't think they'd be interested in auditioning me after I read their ad. I told them that I don't play double kick drum or many of the typical things that metal drummers do. I stick to my own formula.
Leo: That's what we were looking for so it all meshed together. A lot of drummers rely on that double kick petal for everything, trying to double kick their way through life. If you can't lay down a groove with a single kick, a snare, and a high hat, and make me feel it, then it's not there.
Greg: I have a few tricks that I've been taught, but I'm not going to tell you my secrets.
Leo: You'll hear a few things on our record where you think he's playing double kick. But he's not!
Dave: Bob, the power trio is my favorite format for a rock band. Why did Addicted to Pain choose to go that way?
Bob: I played in a few bands before meeting Leo, and some had just one guitar player. Whenever I played in bands with two guitar players, it was just a mess in my eyes. They were never on the same page. I always loved a power trio like Rush, and what they did musically. I love to hear the bass guitar just as loud as the lead guitar.
Greg: The trio format gives us more of an opportunity to speak musically as a drummer and bass player. We're not competing with two guitar players and a lead singer. It gives all three members an equal share.
Leo: It gives us total musical freedom. I don't have to answer to anybody about what guitar riff I want to play or what vocal I want to sing. I'm sure the other guys feel the same way. They can pretty much do whatever they want. We suggest how we want to hear things to each other. We all have an equal say. If it feels right, we're going to do it.
Greg: We toyed with the idea of bringing in a singer, but Leo stepped to the plate and tried to do it himself. Megadeth searched for the right singer for months until Dave Mustaine said "screw this, I'm going to sing." Other advantages of the power trio are that we complement each other more. I don't have to hold back as the drummer. I'm able to do more fills and accents.
Dave: Leo, what are the disadvantages of the power trio format and how it applies to Addicted to Pain?
Leo: For me, it's having to both sing and play. I have to balance it so that one doesn't take away from the other. There are spots where I have to really concentrate on the vocals. The guitar then has to be second nature.
Dave: Thousands of rock bands have a MySpace page. That gives music fans an endless amount of music that they can listen to. How does Addicted to Pain try to stand out in the crowd?
Bob: The first thing that makes you stand out in the MySpace crowd is the page itself. It has to be solid. Something you want to look at and something you want to hear. If you have a cheap MySpace page, 9 out of 10 visitors won't take the next step of giving you a listen.
Leo: Our page is user-friendly. You can access whatever you want. You can get tour info. You can link to our official website and to our Twitter page. The easier it is for people to get to that stuff, the better it is. We try to keep everything people need right there in their face at the top of the page.
Greg: The quality of our audio makes our page stand out. The recording we did with Alex Perialas was incredible. Most MySpace pages have audio done on a four-track.
Leo: Everybody has Pro-Tools software, and everybody thinks they know how to run it.
Dave: Every new band will say their sound is unique, yet comparisons to existing bands are inevitable. What bands have you heard the media compare Addicted to Pain to?
Bob: In reviews that people have written, I've read comparisons to White Zombie, Clutch, Pantera, and Crowbar. Somebody said we sound like Type O Negative.
Greg: A lot of bands that people say we sound like are bands that I don't listen to. I'm kind of trapped in the 70s.
Dave: Me too!
Leo: We're compared to a lot of New York thrash stuff. That's what we grew up on.
Dave: Addicted to Pain is getting its start in a musical era where fans reading this interview can click on the link to your MySpace page that I'll imbed in the text. They can hear your sound immediately. Until they give you a listen, how would you verbally describe the sound of Addicted to Pain?
Greg: I don't like being put into the metal category because you get pigeon-holed there. I wouldn't necessarily call a band like Megadeth metal. I call them hard rock. Metal today lacks melody and feel. Addicted to Pain is aggression-driven hard rock/metal, with catchy hooks and unique grooves.
Leo: I answered a similar question a few days ago and what fell out of my mouth was iron core rock. Addicted to Pain has metal and hardcore predominantly mixed in, with some rock seeping through. We all grew up with either older brothers or parents who gave us a rock influence.
Greg: We also have a hardcore punkish influence from bands like D.R.I. and S.O.D.
Leo: We have a little more melody and song structure than those bands had.
Greg: I like to think we're closer to Black Sabbath than Slayer.
Dave: Leo, your Addicted to Pain press kit says that your band has combined the sounds of 80s thrash with 90s power metal. Do you agree with that statement?
Leo: To a certain degree, yes. Those are the eras that we as individuals formed our musical history in. It's what creeps out of me now. I like to think that we're more up-to-date then that. We're not trying to sound like an 80s or 90s band. Organically, that's what comes out of us. Vocals today tend to be heavier than they were back in the day. As I said before, I like to keep it where you can understand what I'm saying. We don't want to be pigeon-holed as an 80s/90s band, but since that is our influence, that's what feel-wise comes out. I like to think that our songs have more of a modern feel to them. There are songs, where believe it or not, I could pick up an acoustic guitar and play them. They have that sort of quality to them. They're not just punch-you-in-the-face blast beats that don't translate to anything else.
Dave: Bob, utilizing social networking websites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter can be a way to spread the word about Addicted to Pain. How active are you and your band mates on the computer?
Bob: We're on the computer every single day.
Dave: How do you prevent the time you spend on the computer every day from interfering with songwriting and rehearsing?
Bob: Everything is pretty much scheduled. We have set days that we get together to play. When I'm home, I like to play bass and create songs. That's when I need to limit my time on the computer.
Leo: Like anything else in life, it's walking the tightrope. I don't have the time to do half of the things I need to. It's tough sometimes. You have to prioritize the things you love to do and the things you need to do. Sleep comes second!
Dave: Social networking is the "new school" approach to getting your music heard. "Old school" is pounding the road and bringing the music to the people. Greg, what's Addicted to Pain's touring plans for 2011?
Greg: We're touring late 2010 with a band called Texas Hippie Coalition. They seem to be rising up in the ranks. They're more popular in the southern states. We're gearing up for that now. After that, we'll be working on our full-length record, which will be produced by Alex Perialas.
Dave: Alex is a legendary producer, and I know he also produced your EP. I'll have a question or two about working with him later in the interview.
Greg: Like you said Dave, he's a legend. Alex produced the great Anthrax records, S.O.D., Overkill, and so many more bands. He produced the golden age of thrash. Working with him has been an honor.
Dave: So many American metal bands find a greater demand in Europe. Can the band walk away from your day jobs, pack up its bags, and go overseas if opportunity knocks?
Leo: This band is in a building process right now. We're biting off step by step. Before 2010 ends, we'll have a short U.S. tour bitten off. I know from doing extensive touring with Biohazard that the metal scene is far superior in Europe to what it is over here. Those fans are rabid, and I'll look forward to the day when I get this band over there. Once the full-length record is released, hopefully day jobs will be a thing of the past. I work third shift in a chemical factory. I do not want to spend the next 12 years there.
Dave: Bob, other than the four songs on your EP, how will you round out the setlist during live shows?
Bob: We have about 15 songs now. It'll be easy to fill out the set. We want to play different songs night by night. That's the best way. I always like to see a band change things up when they're on tour.
Leo: The four songs from the EP will definitely all be a part of the set every night. We have to drive those songs into people's skulls. We'll mix the set around those songs.
Dave: The road can be pretty tough on a barefoot drummer, Greg. Did Leo have just you or the whole band in mind when he was quoted that Addicted to Pain's live show is "blood, sweat, and tears all over the stage"?
Greg: That's just a metaphor for saying we'll play our hearts out.
Leo: But his big toe might be bloodied.
Greg: I'll look forward to that. It can only make me a better player.
Dave: How'd this band get hooked up with Megaforce Records.
Leo: It was a small miracle. We did an EP and our lawyer, who's from New York City, sent out a handful of demos to his key people. The first person to call him back was Missy from Megaforce. We were all taken back by that and our relationship started there. That led us to Alex, and he gave us this amazing recording. We're just rolling with it.
Dave: Greg touched upon it earlier. Alex Perialas is an icon. Elaborate on the experience of working with him as your producer.
Leo: It was like walking into a piece of metal history. He still has his studio in Ithaca. We lived in the same band house that Anthrax and Testament lived in when they did those landmark recordings. We used some of the same gear they used. Just watching him work was like watching a mad scientist. He does every last thing himself. He places every cable and every microphone. Every dial that gets turned is by him.
Bob: Not to mention his personality. He's the best.
Leo: A good producer can look a singer in the face and say it when something's not working. He'll send you back to the drawing board. Through that process, he gave us the best recording that we could possibly have. It's the only recording I ever did where I could look back and say there's nothing I'd really want to change.
Greg: Alex won't settle for anything but the best from the musicians he's working with. He'll get it out of you no matter how he has to.
Bob: That can be pain-staking.
Leo: Fifteen-hour days! Alex is a workhorse. It was the most exhausting and the most rewarding recording experience that I ever had.
Bob: We spent five days and nights there. We wanted to do something in Ithaca. All we had the energy to do after recording was walk back to our beds to sleep. It was crazy.
Dave: Working with a producer like Alex Perialas automatically sets the bar higher for future recordings. On this EP, did he get it out of you or did the band internally rise to the occasion?
Leo: A little of both Dave. We sort of knew what we were in for. I tried to prepare myself for what I knew was coming. We were on top of our game when we got there. It was good to see that all of the preparation was not for waste. Then Alex gets inside your head, figures out your game, and takes it to another level. Alex hears what's going on, and he tells you what you need to do to capture the best possible musicianship and singing on his recording.
Dave: Bob, look back to the first hour with Alex, not the 15th hour following a long day of recording. What word best describes that moment: intimidating or invigorating?
Bob: Both. We pulled up and shook hands. Then he told us to get our equipment out. We're going to set up and play. It was that quick.
Greg: He sat through all of our 15 songs in the live room taking notes on a laptop. He chose the four songs that we were going to record. It was shocking because he didn't pick any of the songs we thought he'd pick. He chose three of our newest songs along with our oldest.
Dave: You keep going Greg. We're sitting here at Megaforce Records on September 14, 2010, the official release date of your EP.
Greg: And my brother's birthday.
Dave: Did you guys sleep at all last night?
Greg: I went to bed early.
Leo: Better living through chemistry.
Greg: I got in bed at midnight, and I feel asleep at 5:30.
Dave: Leo, are the four songs on this EP enough of a sample to showcase Addicted to Pain's sound and range?
Leo: It's a good introduction. It's a good cross section of what we are musically. I think with the full length it'll get broader. You'll hear a little bit more songwriting.
Greg: I think you'll hear a lot more. Until then, our EP is a good taste of what's to come.
Dave: Bob, if iTunes is the route to go for downloading, what's the best spot for people who want a physical copy?
Leo: mp3s are nice, but there's nothing like holding the disc in your hand and popping it into your player.
Dave: I agree Leo. I'm old-fashioned.
Bob: It'll be available in the big stores as well as independent stores. Or people can write to us and get it from our website.
Dave: My favorite cut from your EP is "Hear N Now." The sound hits me right in the face, it gets right to the point, and the political undertones in the lyrics mean a lot to me personally. What's your favorite cut?
Greg: It's like picking your favorite child. There are days I wake up to a different favorite. "Hear N Now" is fun to play. I'm a bit partial to "Abigail." It reminds me of good old Megadeth.
Leo: For me, it's "Trust Me." That song was a lot of work with me and our producer Alex Perialas. That song was basically just guitar parts and vocals when be brought it into the studio. It ended up getting flushed down the toilet and being re-worked. Alex heard something in that song, and we were able to pull it all together. There's something there now that wasn't there when we hit the studio.
Bob: I love "Going Going Gone." It was a quick song to come together. Greg came up with the intro and drumbeat.
Greg: I had that since I was 19 years old.
Leo: That song truly started with a drumbeat.
Bob: Then the guitar riff came quick. One of the parts of that song I love the most is the serious breakdown on it. I kind of relate that song to the band Prong. I also hear some Soundgarden parts on that song.
Dave: I'm central Jersey-based, about 40 minutes from Manhattan. I know nothing about the music scene in Albany. What's it like?
Greg: For original bands, there are only two venues left. There used to be five or six when I was coming up. I don't want to age myself. It's really hard for a band to play a successful original show unless they team up with one or two semi-popular bands. The cover bands are always going to be able to work. A lot of clubs are just having deejay nights. It's nice to do a show in Albany once every six weeks since you don't want to over-saturate it. It's good to come down to Poughkeepsie and New York City to expose yourself to different audiences. If there's a band in Albany trying to be successful, the best thing would be to get out of Albany.
Dave: Leo, was growing up in Albany a disadvantage or an advantage for you as a music fan?
Leo: Looking back to when I was growing up, being so close to New York City was an advantage. All the hardcore shows would come up to Albany. We had the same exposure in Albany to all the things that were going on musically down here in New York City. The only disadvantage was being a bit too far away from New York City to experience the scene and attend the shows in the New York City music venues.
Dave: Bob, how far along in the writing process for your full-length record is Addicted to Pain?
Bob: We have a lot of good stuff down in our recorders. We spent the last two or three weeks introducing and playing drum parts or guitar licks that we've worked up.
Leo: We have skeletons for a good half-dozen songs.
Greg: We use the Keith Richards method. I'm a huge Stones fan. He would come up with a riff, literally sitting in the rehearsal room with the guys playing that same riff over and over. Charlie Watts would try different beats around it until they got used to playing it without any thinking. That's when the feel would come in. We're kind of doing that now. We might have a 15-second riff that we'll use as a bridge somewhere.
Bob: It could be number 30 in the 30 licks we do, but it might be a little bridge for the first thing we did. It could be switched around or it could be a whole song.
Greg: We're throwing things at the wall and playing with it. But we record everything. Every time we walk into the rehearsal studio we record it all because our memories are not that great.
Dave: Leo, for your existing fans, can we state that you will release the full-length record in 2011?
Leo: That's the plan. We want to record it in the winter, and get it out for spring/summer 2011. Then we can get out and tour behind it.
Greg: We'll have to do everything before 2012 if the world's going to end.
Dave: Leo, my last question is about Biohazard. As a former lead guitarist in that band, you've witnessed bass guitarist Evan Seinfeld's stints on cable television in the HBO prison drama "Oz" and on the VH-1 reality show "Supergroup." Any exposure for a band is good exposure. Share your thoughts on the quote-unquote exposure that Evan's gaining as the "rockstar pornstar."
Leo: Evan is Evan. He always been sort of a rockstar pornstar. There's no façade there. He'll be the first one to tell you. That's who he is. He did take it to another level business-wise within the porn industry after the Biohazard thing ended. That all occurred after my existence with the band. It is what it is. He's making money doing what he was doing anyway. It's a no-brainer for him.
Dave: As a music fan, Biohazard wasn't my cup of tea. But if they were my favorite band, I think his link to the porn industry would have led me away from them.
Leo: I don't know if the deep-rooted hardcore fans have anything wonderful to say about it. But for anybody who knows Evan, it's no big surprise. It's no big deal.
Dave: Thanks for being candid on that Leo. Best of luck guys and thanks for the interview. I can't wait to hear Addicted to Pain play live.